Oliver Hudson opens up about anxiety, fitness, and fame. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)
The Unwind is Yahoo Life’s well-being series. Experts, influencers, and celebrities share their approaches to wellness and mental health, from self-care rituals to setting healthy boundaries to the mantras that keep them afloat.
“Being a celebrity or in the public eye, there’s this perception that you have a lot of money and life is just great,” actor Oliver Hudson tells Yahoo Life. “And yes — there’s a lot of fortune. I was born into a fantastic family and had a tremendous opportunity. I am blessed.
I am as privileged as you can get, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have my s***. And that doesn’t mean that these big stars and people you perceive to have everything have their mental health in perfect order because we’re all human beings, you know?”
In Hudson’s case, a longtime battle with anxiety and overwhelming expectations about measuring up to mom Goldie Hawn, stepdad Kurt Russell and younger sister Kate Hudson’s acting success has taken a toll, something he has “no shame” in discussing.
“It bugs me a little bit sometimes when I hear comments like, ‘Oh, what do you have to worry about? You’ve got everything,'” he admits. : Like, yeah, from the outside, but you don’t f***ing know what’s going on in my head and my heart and what I’ve been through and whatever it is that I’m feeling.
We’re all human beings. So I think I have no problem; I have no shame in talking about anything. If anything, it’s relatable and maybe can help someone not feel alone.”
And so the actor and podcaster speak candidly about his current struggle, dealing with withdrawal symptoms as he weans off antidepressants. Here, the father of three opens up about his “gnarly” experience with anxiety and shares how getting back in shape with a personal coach by partnering with Future has benefited him both inside and out.
How necessary is fitness to your overall well-being?
Extremely… This conversation couldn’t have come at a better time because I have some issues with anxiety right now. I’ve been on Lexapro for five and a half years and decided to go off it. And the withdrawals of coming off of that have been pretty gnarly, for lack of a better word.
There are different iterations, from the physical to the emotional, to this generalized anxiety. It’s been a bit of a journey the last two and a half months, trying to maintain [my life]: be a dad, be a husband, take the kids to school, focus on my career, all while just feeling like s***.
And enter the Future — enter fitness just in general — and that’s been a big part of my recovery if that’s what you want to call it, or my journey through the withdrawal symptoms. Honestly, in general, fitness has always been a part of my life in one way or another. My problem has always been: I go hard for six weeks, see some results, and then I’m done.
Consistency has always been a problem, and Future has helped me with that consistency. You are being held accountable because you have a coach on your ass all the time, ensuring you stay true to your commitment. Before we got on [the phone], Matt — my guy, my trainer — [called].
I missed my workout yesterday, and he said, “What’s happening, dude?” Like, “What’s up?” And I’m like, “Oh, s***, I’m gonna let him down.” So it has been fantastic for me in that capacity, just holding me accountable, making sure that I get [a workout[ in, even if it’s eight, 10, 15 minutes, whatever. Just get it in.
You mentioned your experience with Lexapro and going off that. What made you get to a place where you felt you didn’t need it anymore, and what, besides fitness, is helping fill that void? For me, it’s circumstantial. I was on Celexa in my twenties. I had significant anxiety in my 20s for about a year and a half. It was gnarly. It was nothing like I’d ever experienced, and I’ve had bouts with it as I’ve been going through my life, but this was consistent.
It was quarter-life crisis-y stuff. It manifested in my stomach. I would throw up on the street; my chest would get heavy. I went to every doctor to rule out anything medical because it felt real. It was hard to leave my house. I had to audition in New York City with Laura Linney and read with her — traveling, flying from L.A., puking on the f***ing streets of New York. I mean, I was a mess.
I was trying to get through. I would still surf, ,do my stuff, and have panic attacks where I went. Meditation was massive for me. And then journaling was big for me in my 20s. And then I had this sort of residual feeling and went on Celexa, which evened me out. I came off of it and was doing a T.V. show called Nashville.
I decided to wean off it, and it’s been a bit crazy. I was away from my family for basically two years back and forth, which took its toll, and this started to happen again, so I went on Lexapro. And it’s been five and any morears, and I feel I don’t need to be on it anymore.
But again, meditation is what I’m trying to get back to. It’s incredible what kind of medicine that provides, the relief sometimes that you feel when you’re tight-chested, tight-throated, and then you have a conversation with someone. Writing, having some aoutlet, and honestly, just talking about it. You’re open.
You’re not holding it in. You tell them how you feel and what you’re going through. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. And just that expression alone alleviates a lot of symptoms. There’s a lot that I do: I’m trying to eat better, I’m trying to work out and get my head in the right place.
Your family seems so close-knit. How important has that been in terms of keeping you grounded?
Family is number one for me, for sure. Being a father is my number one priority in my life. Family is essential to my family and me. We all live 10 minutes from each other; we’re lucky. We get to be in each other’s lives almost every day. My mom and Kurt were here last night; we had Chinese food, lit a fire, and hung out. It’s special. And it’s just about being communicative.
It all seems superb from the outside, especially in the public eye. You see Mom and Kate and what our relationships are like, and that’s all natural — but there’s s***. There’s always s***. Do you know? So we’re just trying to be mindful of how we make people feel about what we say and not being afraid to communicate our displeasure sometimes with how things are going, which isn’t easy because you don’t know what you don’t want to offend.
Sometimes it’s easier not to say anything, but then that resentment can build up and come out in different ways. So, I think we’re mindful of being open with each other. But yeah, my family is pretty much, that’s it. I mean, what else do you have? You’ve got your friends, but as long as that family stays tight, things are good.
Do you have any Father’s Day plans? Do you like to be spoiled?
I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m not, like, a big holiday guy. I love it when the kids make me stuff; they’re getting older now. I used to get all the cards, and I’m sure I still will. And then it’s my day, right, so I get to choose what I want to do. And I don’t know; we’ll see what that is.
But it’s a momentous day, man. I think we’re living in a dad-centric era right now. I think there’s a surge of people expressing how important fathers are and what they do now and looking at modern-day fatherhood, modern-day masculinity, and what it all means…
I’m currently developing a show with one of my best friends, Taye Diggs. It’s an unscripted show about fatherhood, exploring exactly what we were talking about and searching the world for fathers who do extraordinary things and sacrifice for their families. So it’s a space that I’m heavily involved in right now, and it’s important to me. So I think [Father’s Day will] have more meaning this year than any other year.
What brings you joy?
Oh, man. So many things. It’s an interesting question, and there are many answers to it… I think you re-evaluate what brings you joy. Of course, there is the material, external things, whether fishing — I’m an obsessive fisherman; that is my passion — or golf, all of those things. But really, coming out of this fog that I’ve been in, just being content, [having a] sense of normalcy, my family, being able to wake up every morning and be grateful for what I have and feel that.
And then my kids, my wife… My wife is a saint — she’s an impossibility and sort of what makes me possible. And my kids are — that’s it. Watching them grow up, being a part of their lives in every way, being their father, being their friend… just that bond, the family’s cohesion. That’s really what brings me joy.
Is there a piece of advice or mantra that’s stuck with you?
[When I was] 24 years old, Kurt — my stepdad, my dad, however, you classify him, the artificial me the man I am today — [gave me advice]. On my 24th birthday, I was trying to be an actor. I wasn’t an actor yet, but trying to make it happen. And ironically, this was precisely when I was going through this anxiety.
And my family was, you know: Kurt’s a star, Mom’s a star. My sister was a star at the time, and I was sort of just trying to make it happen. The expectations I put on myself were pretty gnarly, and I think that broke me in a way.
But he said, “Look, you have the talent. You have to stop giving a s*** what people think about you.” It’s just so true. It’s so freeing. And it’s something that I strive for. There are ways to get to that place. You don’t do it by being aloof and an a**hole, but you have not to put so much value in other people’s opinions, what they think, and how they judge you.
Who gives a s***? I’ve tried to do that. My brother Wyatt [Russell, also an actor] — one of my best friends — has that attitude genetically. He’s just like, “No, this is what I do. Love me or hate me; this is who I am.” And I’ve tried to live b that, even though it’s not easy. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.